Rosetta Cottages

Although now absorbed into greater Belfast, these modest cottages date back to a time when Ballynafeigh was a village in its own right, and they appear to date from the late 18th century. A land lease of 1817 concerning them refers to “three tenements garden and parcel of land… on the West side of the Turnpike Road leading to Newtonbreda [sic]”.

A reminder of the then rural situation of the cottages was the portion of the lease in which the Marquis of Donegall reserved to himself watercourses, turf-mosses and the right “to hunt hawk fish and fowl in and through all said premises” – something that is hard to conceive of these days!.

Originally the Ravenhill Road was known as the Ballynafeigh Road, and a tollhouse stood at the top of it, roughly where the present Rosetta roundabout is. The Rosetta Cottages were then known as Saddlers’ Row, and no doubt several of the residents provided harnesses and other goods for carriages stopped at the tollhouse.

From about 1980 the property was deteriorating, exacerbated by blight from the Roads Service programme to widen the Ormeau Road from the Rosetta roundabout down to the gasworks. Although one end was acquired by a new owner and converted to shops, Roads Service had vested the remainder. Hearth Housing Association was able to acquire that portion in 2012 thanks to an acquisition grant for buildings at risk supported by the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Plans for their restoration were drawn up, and planning permission granted to convert six original houses into two, but the restoration was eventually carried out after the merger with Clanmil by Clanmil’s Hearth Heritage Division in 2018.

The restored cottages have secondary glazing to deal with road traffic noise, and have been rendered with lime plaster. The tiny chimneys had become dangerous and were rebuilt and provided with new pots. The opportunity was taken to improve thermal insulation and introduce other energy-saving measures. 

As a result of commercial changes carried out before the buildings were listed and the serious decay that had set in while the buildings were suffering road blight, little original fabric remains inside the houses. However one retains its fireplace and original staircase, with an extraordinary chimney structure in its roofspace. The windows were all single-pane, but one sash retained traces of the original glazing bars and the windows were restored as six-pane sashes.

The restoration of these cottages stitches in an important bit of townscape between the impressive chimneys of the Rosetta Avenue houses and the Good Shepherd gate lodge which Hearth had restored a decade earlier for the Belfast Buildings Trust.

Project By
Hearth Housing Association/Clanmil Hearth Heritage Division
Year restored
Clanmil Hearth Heritage Division
Albert Fry Associates
Naylor & Devlin
Architectural Heritage Fund Buildings at Risk purchase scheme, Housing Associations Grant